The GOP had three chances to repeal Obamacare, and whiffed every time


If it wasn’t so serious, it would be hilarious watching Republicans try to pass health care legislation – hilarious if you enjoy the kind of slapstick humor perfected by The Three Stooges.

Republicans are so disjointed that Dr. Frankenstein would throw his hands up in despair. There were three different votes this week on Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare, and various combinations of Republicans, by accident or design, stopped them all, effectively voting to keep Obamacare alive, if not well.

Keep in mind that to pass a bill, the GOP could only afford to lose two Republican votes, since Democrats are united in a way that Republicans can only envy.

So first, there was a broad repeal-and-replace vote. Nine Republican senators voted against it, including Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Dean Heller, Bob Corker, Tom Cotton, Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran and the ubiquitous Rand Paul.

Then there was a clean repeal vote. No replacement, just repeal. This time, Collins, Murkowski and Heller were joined by John McCain (politics aside, prayers for McCain), Lamar Alexander, Shelley Moore Capito and my old boss, Rob Portman, all voting against that one, despite the fact the repeal would not have gone into effect for two long years, plenty of time to come up with a better replacement.

Finally, there was the so-called “skinny repeal,” apparently named after Larry or Moe, since Curly wouldn’t qualify. The “skinny repeal” was a bill designed not to become law, but just to let the Senate pass something so it could end up back in committee for a real bill to be worked out with the House.

Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell titled it the “Health Care Freedom Act,” but he should have more honestly called it, “Just Vote For This Because Even If You Don’t Like It, It’s Not Becoming Law! Please!”

Even with that, Collins and Murkowski phoned in their “nays,” and McCain, he of maverick fame, surprised most of his colleagues by also voting against it (c’mon, that’s why they call him maverick), providing the third and decisive vote needed to sink the bill and leaving Democrats and the mainstream media celebrating yet another Republican flub.

You can’t make this stuff up. Three pitches. Three swings at the ball. Three whiffs. The GOP was called out.

The media kept reporting various polls showing the unpopularity of the Republican plan to replace Obamacare. Republican plan? What Republican plan? How could the public intelligently weigh in on a Republican plan about which they knew only one thing, which was that fewer people would be insured?

The only thing the public was told about the Republican plan was that it would take health insurance away from 32 million Americans, or 22 million Americans, or 16 million Americans, depending on the Congressional Budget Office score of the day. You know the CBO, right? It’s the “non-partisan” government agency that has a prediction track record as about as accurate as guessing the number of jelly beans in a jar. But everyone waits in breathless anticipation to see how the CBO will score a plan.

Of course a Republican plan will mean fewer people will be insured! Why? Because it would do away with the individual mandate forcing people to buy health insurance. But please forgive me, because I’m engaging in logic, and the subject here is the Republican Party.

So, the number of people who would lose health insurance was the only message that got through to the public, which is another GOP failure.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, who, as minority leader, has the easiest job in America – how hard is it to win the message war with Republicans? – issued a statement. “We are not celebrating, we are relieved,” he said, trying not to smirk as the celebration began.

At least The Three Stooges were entertaining and harmless. Republicans are neither.

Even though he voted against the straight repeal plan, which is unfortunate, Portman did at least vote for the last-ditch “skinny repeal,” even though I’m sure he wasn’t a fan of it.

And I will give him credit, too, for issuing a statement promising not to give up, unlike McConnell, who indicated he was done.

Portman said, “I know some may want to throw in the towel and do nothing, but I don’t believe that is the responsible course of action. Doing nothing would leave tens of thousands of Ohioans stranded without health insurance and everyone with higher costs. We can do better, and I’m not giving up.”

There is some, slight hope for the GOP, and that is to get something done before the end of the year, before Ohioans and others across America are forced to either buy health insurance or pay an IRS fine, before more insurers abandon entire counties state by state, before premiums keep rising even more on their own than whatever increases would come under a Republican plan.

President Trump has probably been right all along – let Obamacare collapse under its own weight, leading to Americans begging Republicans to fix it.

We’ll see. But right now, the signs aren’t good, and being in the majority is about as meaningless right now for the Republican Party as if the Washington Generals were allowed to play 7 on 5 against the Harlem Globetrotters. We still know what the outcome would be.

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

By Gary Abernathy

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